Nathan and I love gardening. Of course, like many gardeners, we love the end results of our hard work. We like the beauty of flowers in our front yard and the satisfaction of eating vegetables we grew ourselves. But we also love the glamor-less, labor-intensive parts: the pruning and weeding, the digging and watering. It's a lovely and gratifying hobby—but one which is difficult when one is a twenty-something who moves every year into a new place that somebody else owns. When we moved into the intern house next door to the church last fall, we found ourselves daydreaming about what might grow in the un-turned dirt and the far-off days of the next spring's sunshine.
So this spring, when Easter was a week or so behind us and a few un-claimed Easter lilies and hydrangeas were languishing in the narthex, we decided to put our gardening gloves back on. Those Easter flowers found new homes (and hopefully new life) in the dirt in front of the intern house. Then, with the help of some friends in the congregation, we installed two raised garden beds in the backyard. The beds are made from leftover wood that once was part of a deck on the church—so it's fitting that it has come full-circle now with its new purpose in the church's big backyard.
But of course, Nathan and I are coming to the end of our time here at Messiah. It's something we try not to think about too much because we have come to love this place so deeply—but we had to face that reality when we went to pick out our seeds and seedlings. Most things will be ready for harvest in about mid-August … right when we're leaving. The perennials we re-homed into our yard might not bloom again while we're here. We tried to select early-bearing varieties of tomatoes and peppers and planted more than our usual amount of cool-weather crops whose season we might extend with a little added shade. But the fact remains that nature's timing is out of our hands. It's likely that much, if not most, of the fruits of our labors will be reaped by the intern house's next occupants this fall. And I find that I'm at peace with that.
Because that's not unlike what we do as a church. Oh, we love the end results of our hard work: As a community, we are rooted in our shared traditions and values. We like watching the seeds we've planted flower in the lives of those we touch or the ministries we invest in. But so much of what we do is also for the next generation: we plow new soil and hope that it will be fertile, knowing that it might not grow anything for many seasons. We prune away old practices and smart from the pain, but hope that it will lead to fresh buds and luxuriant growth. We pray for continued rain and sunshine to nourish that which is out of our hands. Because the joy of the body of Christ is also in the hard work of tending and cultivating, and the timing is all up to God. For Nathan and me, our new little garden has been a good reminder that it is worthwhile to plant for those who are not yet here, and to think with longing and hope—and yes, with a little sadness—of the bounty that is to come even after our part in this growing season is over.
This vocation into which God has called the church is lovely and gratifying, and we rest in the knowledge that our Gardner will continue to tend what will bloom in the time to come. Amen.